Saturday, October 30, 2010

Canary Islands Cruise-Oct 2010

Teresa just loves cruising and this was our fourth for our main holiday in about the last six years,because of her arthrytis and mobility problems she finds it the best solution although it's surprizing how far you walk on a large ship.
Talking of large we went on the Royal Carribean "Indepedence of the Seas" for the first time and it is truely a magnificent ship complete with ice rink,huge climbing wall,and "Flow-Rider" surfing facility all of which I felt I was a little too old to do full justice to !!
We set off from Southampton late p.m on Tues 19th and Wed 20th and the Bay of Biscay dawned bright if a little breezy and cold.
Apart from gulls and Gannets the Bay of Biscay was dreadfully quiet for both Wed 20th and Thurs 21st as we headed for our first stop at Funchal in Madeira although Common Dolphins were fairly regular visitors to the bow of the ship.
Migrants were also "following" us south and a Meadow Pipit scuttled around the promenade deck and bizzarely a party of seven Redwings passed us although without actually landing,I also heard some wagtails calling but couldn't locate them.
We weren't docking in Madeira until noon on Fri 22nd which gave me a few hours of seawatching in the morning and our approach proved to be quite productive with good numbers of Cory's Shearwaters skimming the surface of the sea,a few Pilot Whales were quite distant and a couple of very large "blows" could have been Fin Whale.
Funchal in Madeira was sunny and warm and whilst Teresa relaxed on the ship I took a stroll around the dockside,Turnstones paraded on the decks of some fishing boats and one flew across to the quayside where it joined a very confiding winter plummaged Red Knot.

A little further along the quayside on the approach into the town by an old fort a group of three small bright yellow tinged birds put in an appearance,I initially thought they were Serin but upon closer inspection they turned out to be Canary.

Back on board I noticed a couple of terns feeding alongside the ship which after consulting my Collins looked to be adult winter plummaged Roseate Terns with the four dark outermost primaries forming a distinctive dark narrow wedge,given my track record with terns though this Autumn I stand to be corrected !!

The evening departure from Funchal and the remaining couple of hours seawatching proved equally productive with lots of Cory's and regular groups of Common Dolphins coming in to the ship to bow ride.

The stops at Tenerife,Gran Canaria and Lanzarote were pretty forgettable from a birding point of view other than the usual gulls around the ports although I did come across a rather nice bright red dragonfly which I have yet to attempt to identify so if someone wants to give me a helping hand please feel free.
We did however get attacked by pirates as we left one of the islands which added a little excitment,they never stood a chance really against our whopper of a boat !!

We headed then for Vigo in northern Spain,our last port of call on Wed 27th,a place that I had visited previously and knew of a nice wooded park area around an old fort on the hillside above the town and only a short but steep walk from the dock.

I spent a couple of hours with Teresa having a browse around the large modern shopping centre on the dockside and then headed up to the fort/park.

There were several Black Redstarts around and also some White Wagtails near a small stream and just as I was making my way back to the ship I spotted a Short-toed Treecreeper doing exactly what it says on the tin.

Our final day was spent at sea as we headed back to Southampton up through the Bay of Biscay in fairly benign conditions,I think I must have seen every Gannet in the northern hemisphere,several Kittiwakes but also picked up some more Cory's and also a bird that I really wanted to see which was Sabine's Gull and probably saw about six throughout the final day.
We docked in Southampton early a.m Fri 29th and our holiday was over for another year,the ship was fantastic and brilliant value for money,entertainment fantastic,the food was glorious even if the drinks were quite expensive (captive audience I guess !!) and the birding wasn't too bad either.

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